LEWISTON — There would still be cuts in student programs and teaching positions, and property taxes would go up, but not by as much under a revised school budget from Superintendent Bill Webster.

However, Webster warned Thursday, the proposed spending plan still doesn’t meet the needs of students and it isn’t affordable.

The $60.76 million budget Webster released in February called for a property tax hike that would mean a $126 increase on a home valued at $150,000. The new budget would put that increase at $111.

The first budget proposal called for $1.9 million in cuts; the second includes $1.2 million in cuts.

“This will not be the last version proposed,” Webster said Thursday.

The revised budget reflects more money from the state, along with expected retirements. Webster expects Lewiston schools to receive $700,000 more in state aid because of the city’s rising student population and declining property valuation, two ways the state determines how much each municipality gets for K-12 education.

Webster cautioned that the state budget has not yet been passed and the amount of funding could change by the time legislators adjourn next month.

Webster’s earlier budget called for cutting 26 positions, including several classroom teachers, which would mean some classes could hold as many as 28 students.

The new budget eliminates 10 positions and restores the rest.

As School Committee members continued to review the budget Monday night, each was asked to express his or her concerns, Chairman Jim Handy said Thursday.

“Class size was an issue of concern for everyone,” especially in the lower grades, Handy said. That led to some elementary teaching positions being restored.

A teacher from Farwell and Martel elementary schools will be transferred to two new available classrooms at McMahon, Handy said. “It’s a good step to alleviate the high class numbers we’ve been seeing.”

Restored positions include one pre-kindergarten teacher, one classroom teacher at Farwell Elementary and one at Geiger Elementary, which will be transferred to McMahon, plus one teacher at Montello, one ed tech at Martel Elementary, and one new in-school suspension ed tech at Lewiston High School.

A 25 percent across-the-board cut of sports and extracurricular activities at the middle and high schools has been lowered to 9 percent.

School Committee members considered the 25 percent cut too drastic, Handy said. “Education just doesn’t happen in the confines of four walls,” he said.

Still proposed to be cut: one teacher at Farwell, one ed tech at Martel, two classroom teachers and one ed tech at the Lewiston Middle School, two teachers at Lewiston High School and one HVAC instructor at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center.

Because of pending retirements, Webster has said he does not expect anyone to be laid off.

The budget eliminates local funding of K-8 after-school and summer programs, which will continue to be paid for by grants, Webster said. But the programs will fall short of the need, he said.

Also, $296,000 will be spent to build more in-house special ed programs instead of sending students to expensive out-of-district programs.

Overall, “the budget continues to be a very challenging budget,” Webster said. “While it may not be quite as dire as it first appeared, I still do not believe it meets the needs of Lewiston children, nor do I promote this budget as something Lewiston can afford.”

Big reasons for the cuts include MaineCare costs of $1.5 million in the past year, no more carryover savings as $1.6 million was spent last year on growing MaineCare bills, $1.29 million more for faculty and staff raises, plus $240,000 for higher health insurance costs.

Lewiston school budget meetings

LEWISTON — The School Committee will continue reviewing the 2014-15 budget at 6:45 p.m. March 24 and April 9 at the Dingley Building on Oak Street.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Chairman Jim Handy said. Included are changes to a teen parenting program and reviewing continuing summer programs through grant funding.

“The summer programs do so many things for so many students,” he said. “It’s a critical program to have.”

The school budget will be reviewed with the City Council at 6:45 p.m. March 31 at McMahon Elementary School.

Public comment is invited at all meetings.

As scheduled, the School Committee will adopt a budget April 14. Voters get the final say in a referendum May 13.


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